San Francisco is a city known for its eclectic mix of Victorian and modern day architecture including Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Alamo Square, and the iconic Transamerica Pyramid. According to designer and architect William Pereira, the futuristic pyramid-shape of the sparkling white, quartz-covered skyscraper was chosen to maximize the amount of light and air filtering down to the adjacent streets.
Located in the San Francisco Financial District – Barbary Coast office submarket, the unique design of the Transamerica Pyramid also allowed Pereira to adhere to the strict building laws in San Francisco and erect a skyscraper much taller than conventional design would have allowed. When it was constructed, the Transamerica Pyramid was the tallest office building in San Francisco, surpassing the height of the former Bank of America Center on 555 California Street by 74 feet. It wasn’t until 2017 that the 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower overtook the Transamerica Pyramid Center to become the tallest office building in San Francisco.
Similar to the Chrysler Building in Midtown Manhattan, the Transamerica Pyramid had more than its share of critics while being constructed. Pundits proclaimed the building’s pyramid shape as an unfit match for San Francisco architecture. The ‘shaft-like’ design of the Pyramid was ridiculed, while other detractors noted that the pyramid shape is inefficient in terms of space, as it yields a low percentage of usable floor space and very small upper floors.
Over the years, the Transamerica Pyramid Center has conquered its critics and won the hearts and minds of San Franciscans from one end of the Bay to the other. The San Francisco Chronicle has described the Pyramid as, “An architectural icon of the best sort . . . A uniquely memorable building,” and a presence and persona that is an engaging combination of triumph, the unexpected, and the unreal.
Sitting at the northern end of the Financial District, the Transamerica Pyramid – along with the 505 Sansome office building – occupies an entire city block in one of the most valuable commercial real estate markets in the world. Today the 500,000 square-foot floor space in the Transamerica Pyramid Center is home to prestigious businesses such as ATEL Capital Group, Rembrandt Venture Partners, Incapture, and Heller Manus Architects.
Despite being built nearly 50 years ago, extensive updating of the Transamerica Pyramid has earned the building a LEED Platinum rating. In fact, of the 111,146 projects listed on the U.S. Green Building Council website less than 6% have been awarded the highly sought-after Platinum classification.
This icon in the San Francisco office market is unique in many other ways as well:
- The 48th-floor meeting room is fully equipped with state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment and is available to rent for corporate meetings, training sessions, new product launches, cocktail receptions, or intimate dinners;
- Most of the building’s 3,678 windows can pivot 360 degrees, allowing outside window surfaces to be washed from the inside;
- The pure white color of the Transamerica Pyramid comes from the crushed white quartz covering the building;
- Every 10 years, 18,000 work hours are spent ‘brightening’ the building’s white quartz covering;
- The concrete foundation of the building is 9 feet thick and took 72 hours of continuous pouring to lay;
- Part of the Niantic, a ship from the California Gold Rush during the mid-1800s, lies buried just a few feet away from the base of the Transamerica Pyramid;
- The public Redwood Park in the Pyramid Center is home to redwood trees transplanted from the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains;
- A commemorative plaque honoring Bummer and Lazarus, two legendary stray dogs from the 1850s who made the Financial District their home, sits at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid Center with the inscription, “Two dogs with but a single bark, Two tails that wagged as one.”
Images courtesy of Yardi Matrix.